Short of time and short of sleep our final day on Hoy was always going to be a hectic affair. An early start saw Tom and I heading over to a gloomy looking Rora Head to prepare for the lead of our new line. As we abseiled in we could tell that conditions weren’t great. The spray from the waves and the lack of morning sunlight meant a thin film of grease lubricated some of the small holds on the final run out. We both top roped the pitch and brushed the holds as best we could before Ben Winston joined us and it was time to go big or go home.
Having travelled all the way up to Hoy there was no real option of backing down. Both Tom and I knew that it would be some time before another opportunity presented itself to return to Hoy so we abseiled down and psyched up, both of us having decided to lead the crux pitch. I headed up first, making the most of the reasonable rests and placing as much gear as possible. The first section of the pitch is quite steady. Reasonable pulls between slightly fragile sandstone ledges lead up to a compact wall of high quality sandstone. Once committed to this wall a confident approach is best suited. A long run out with strenuous climbing follows a line of crimps up to a rest beneath the crux section. From here a series of big pulls on reasonable holds lead to an enigmatic final reach up to a break, miles above the last piece of gear.[caption id="attachment_5320" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Calum Musket looking down at Dan Dare (E7 6b), Mucklehouse Wall area of Hoy, Orkney. ©Ben Winston[/caption]
Fortunately the lead went without incident and, having abseiled back down to remove the gear, it was Tom’s turn for the lead. Tom made steady progress up the lower wall before cruising the final crux section to reach the belay a very happy man. Realizing that time was now in short demand, should we want to make the 3 o’clock ferry off Hoy, I frantically seconded the first pitch and prepared immediately to lead us to the top. Having not inspected the top section of the cliff, I was surprised to find another top quality pitch, albeit at a more amenable level, but in keeping with the rest of the route. I topped out just as Ben was rushing back to the van telling us to hurry if we wanted to leave Hoy that day. Tom seconded rapidly and we were soon making a mad dash back to the car in time to reach the ferry a couple of minutes before its departure. Dan Dare, as we christened the new route, is a fantastic new addition to Hoy with some brilliant and varied climbing on good quality sandstone. We named the route after a terrible joke of Tom’s we were told as we travelled up north and we’ve given the route a grade of E7 6b.[caption id="attachment_5321" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Calum Musket on Dan Dare (E7 6b), Mucklehouse Wall area of Hoy, Orkney. ©Ben Winston[/caption]
Having caught the three o’clock ferry off Hoy and been inspired after watching Andy Murray win Wimbledon, we travelled back to the mainland and my thoughts returned to some unfinished business from the journey up to Hoy. We’d stopped off at a single pitch coastal venue next to a small hamlet called Mid-Clyth and I’d attempted a new route there on-sight. I was one move away from glory, but having snapped off a small hold and with no gear of worth, I decided to down climb back to the ground and leave the route for another day.
Despite the fact it was now 8.30pm I felt like this was an opportunity I couldn’t waste as we drove through the small hamlet on our journey home. After a quick top rope I made the first ascent of this compellingly bold arête. The sole protection for the route is two skyhooks and the climbing, although never desperate, is difficult enough to warrant the rather worrying grade of E7 6a.
As we cooked ourselves dinner in a picturesque harbour at 11pm that evening. we reflected on a fantastic days’ climbing and a memorable short trip to the far north of Scotland. Thanks to Tom and Ben for such a great trip and to Rab for getting us up there in the first place!